A modest proposal

Open Thread: Veterans Day
Questioning batting average, 96 years ago

Recently a friend and colleague of mine, Gregg, tried to sell me on an idea he’s been mulling over for quite some time. No, the idea doesn’t involve wife-swapping or eating our children; but rather, it’s a solution to the designated hitter debate. As it currently stands, each league plays to its own set of rules. Perhaps there is room for compromise though.

The Proposal

Both leagues would have a designated hitter. However, the designated hitter would only hit for the starting pitcher. Once the starting pitcher was removed from the game, the designated hitter would no longer be available.  The designated hitter spot would then be filled by whoever is on the mound (obviously forcing the manager to consider using a pinch hitter every time the DH is due). This would obviously force the manager into contemplating the double switch. Perhaps an additional roster spot could even added for further bench depth.

Here’s a practical example of how a scenario in this plan could play out:

A.J. Burnett is on the mound (this already sounds promising, eh?); the game is entering the top of the fifth, and up until this point Burnett’s surrendered a few runs but the team is still very much alive. Let’s pretend the score is tied up at three. As to be expected, Burnett’s pitch count is just about to surpass the century mark and the team is preparing itself for the obligatory meltdown. Jesus Montero (who was slotted into the roster as the DH) is expected to bat second in the bottom of the fifth.

Do the Yankees allow Burnett a little more leeway on the mound so that the heart of the order can have their at-bats in the bottom of the fifth? Or, does Girardi cut his losses, yank Burnett preemptively, and substitute Andruw Jones (or whichever bench player you prefer) into the game to bat in the fifth which will subsequently result in using a pinch hitter in that slot for the remainder of the game?

Possible “Pros:”

  1. Standardizes league rules.
  2. Allows for the DH to still have a role (which would obviously be required by the players’ union).  It might even create more jobs if teams were looking for an extra bat to add to their rosters.
  3. It makes the NL lineups deeper which could result in more exciting outcomes.
  4. Would encourage even more strategic decision making.
  5. Pitchers would not be hitting which would limit the “easy outs” and injuries.

Possible “Cons:”

  1. The DH value is minimized due to less at bats and a codependency on the pitcher.  Just think, in 605 plate appearances in 2011, David Ortiz earned a 4.2 fWAR by posting a .309/.398/.554 triple slash (.405 wOBA — seventh best in the league).  Imagine how frustrated Sox fans would be if he were limited to 350-400 plate appearances.
  2. Could encourage less lineup optimization (although admittedly, the net effect of this over the course of the season is minimal).
  3. Reduces some of the strategy currently deployed by NL pitchers (pitching around certain hitters intentionally to try and get to the opposing pitcher for the “assumed out”).
  4. Somewhat aggravates the purists who believe a pitcher is a player and should hit.
  5. Somewhat aggravates the reformists (is that what we want to call them?) who want to see strictly see a DH as the role is currently defined.

Personally, I’m still not sold on the idea as I tend to enjoy American League rules.  That said, it’s still a creative compromise that’s worth considering.  What’s your take?

How do you feel about the proposal?
View Results
Open Thread: Veterans Day
Questioning batting average, 96 years ago
  • chmch

    The NL rules are kind of boring and ‘tricky.’ Can we just move on? The NL should change. End of story.

  • IB6 UB9

    If thr Astros join the AL to even out the leagues then interleague becomes evey night, so something like this would help that transition.

    Also makes AL managers work and could reduce some of the premature hooks.

    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      Don’t premature hooks occur more often in the NL?

  • dan l

    Curious if you would allow the DH to now move into the field?

    • Greg C

      Good question. Though maybe it’s implied that would be possible. If so, I would be more on-board.

  • Brian

    The DH is an abomination! It changes baseball as it was originally meant to be. Get rid of the DH altogether and bring back real baseball with pitching, defense, double switches and scores that aren’t in the double digits. If you can’t play the field, you’re not a baseball player.

    • Cross777

      Brian I guess you want all day games, shared gloves, train travel instead of airplanes, longer heavier bats without knobs, the catcher really doesn’t need that mask…etc.

      Time marches on, the DH is here top stay.

    • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

      Go back to bed Grandpa.

    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      People already think baseball is boring enough as it is. The last thing MLB needs is more pitchers sac bunting and striking in what seems like 50% of their at-bats. I hate the National League.

      • Plank

        I don’t think baseball is boring. Do you?

        • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

          No, I don’t think its boring at all. It would be less entertaining with more pitchers hitting though.

  • Paul from Boston

    I love it! But I’d add one last wrinkle. Allow the DH to enter the game as a fielder, then the relief pitcher hits in the starting fielder’s slot.

    For the Yankees this would manifest itself as A-Rod DHing in the five slot and Nunez playing 3B in the 9th slot. When CC is pulled, A-Rod slides into 3B and Robertson bats 9th. Here you get more ABs to A-Rod and you get the strategic decision on whether you need more offense or defense in the game. Think about decisions like whether Papi/Giambi would enter a close game at 1B for Man-cave-itch in the 6th or 7th inning…

    • Gregg

      You sound like a very intelligent individual. :-)

  • http://www.runninglocal.wordpress.com BobK

    So, the proposal is to up the number of innings that SPs throw thus increasing elbow and shoulder injuries as teams shy away from removing their DH from the game? As an adjunct, we’d also be encouraging teams to resist developing pitchers as promising young starters come with innings caps; you’re setting up a regime where only hopeless teams bring young starters to the fore and teams pay more and more for the dreaded “seasoned veteran” innings eater; I suspect that over time the net result of this proposal would be to actually increase scoring as the quality of pitching erodes.

    Avoid people with a superfluous double consonant in their names as does Greg”g”; words to live by ;)

  • dc1874

    Only allow the DH to hit in the ninth place in the batting order!! ..the pitchers spot which he is in for the first place!!!

    • Greg C

      Pitchers don’t have to hit 9th.

  • Rich in NJ

    I don’t love the idea, but if somehow that was what it took to achieve uniformity (which, IMO, should be the ultimate goal), I would support it.

    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      The best idea might be to just make the NL adopt the DH.

  • TJyankee21

    It is okay but not great. Still better than pitchers hitting all the time. If this were to happen DH’s salaries would go down because of less at bats. Could be tough to pass with the Player’s Union.

    I am still amazed the NL has not adopted the DH. The Player’s Union would obviously want the DH in the NL because it would lengthen careers and get some players paid more. You would think owners would want it as well since pitchers would have less chance to get hurt by batting and therefore would protect there investments more. I guess there are enough purists left in the game to stop the discussion everytime it gets started.

    • StanfordBen

      I don’t think you’re right about the effect of salaries, either for this proposal or for adopting the DH in the DL.

      In theory, the total salary a team pays is equal to the total value the players on the roster are expected to provide. Obviously what happens in practice isn’t exactly in line with theory, but it’s approximately true.

      So if you diminish the role of the DH in the AL, the value of DH’s would go down, but the value of pinch hitters would go up. It seems like the total amount of value provided by a roster would be around the same, so the total salary paid would be about the same. I don’t know why the Players’ Union would care about the fact that different players would be paid more or less if the total amount of money is the same.

    • The Fallen Phoenix

      NL owners keep NL salaries down. That’s why NL owners don’t support the DH.

      • RetroRob

        MLB also likes the debate, which is another reason the DH won’t go away. It’s similar to the MVP award. Every year people debate who exactly is the MVP and how much weight should be put on the *V* in MVP equation, or just what does Valuable mean, and should pitchers be eligible for the award. And MLB never does anything to clear up the ambiguous language because the debate makes the award more interesting.

        The DH debate is also never ending. The differnces between the leagues creates debate and therefore interest.

  • Shuffle Cards for fun

    I love watching pitchers hit. In the words of Butthead “shut up, dumbass”

  • dc1874

    Purists… real grass only..day games..baggy uniforms..small mitts…players leaving their gloves on the field…that would be cool to watch!!!

    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      Baggy unis aren’t the worst thing as long as its Manny Ramirez or Prince Fielder baggy as opposed to Ian Kinsler baggy.

      And you have to have real grass, right? That doesn’t seem like such a purist request. I could easily be wrong there though.

      • Bob from LES

        Most grass is sod and many parks now have hybrids of turf and sod. It’s cheaper, looks better, and is no longer as detrimental to players as it once was. Move on, limiting the dh limits players careers. Ie never going to happen and thank God anyway, who wants to see a fat 60 year old in a uni (why don’t they just wear nice clothes) trying to make double switches. They already beat up relief pitchers, this would make it worse.

      • Bob from LES

        Most grass is sod and many parks now have hybrids of turf and sod. It’s cheaper, looks better, and is no longer as detrimental to players as it once was. Move on, limiting the dh limits players careers. Ie never going to happen. They already beat up relief pitchers, this would make it worse.

        • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

          Oh ok, I wasn’t really aware of hybrid fields. I know they have/have had natural grass, field turf and artificial turf. Artificial turf is just grotesque.

  • StanfordBen

    I kind of like this idea.

    “The DH value is minimized due to less at bats and a codependency on the pitcher.” – Not sure if this is a Con. It’s more of a feature. I think people who like the DH like it not because they want players like Big Papi to be able to only bat and not field, it’s because they prefer that pitchers not hit. So I don’t think it’s a big problem if career DH’s are either forced to play the field or are out of a full time job.

    One nitpick: “It might even create more jobs if teams were looking for an extra bat to add to their rosters.” Unless you’re also proposing expanding rosters, this obviously won’t create more total jobs, since the total amount of jobs is always equals to the size of rosters.

  • Jonathan

    Here’s what I can’t figure out. The owners are basically willing to do almost anything to raise scoring to make more money. They ignored a MAJOR steroid problem. We aren’t testing for HGH etc, but they haven’t pushed for having the DH in both leagues. It would also help the MLBPA since it would create more jobs without losing any. Owners win, players win, fans win. What is the freaking hold up?

    Nobody comes to the ballpark to watch pitchers hit. Plenty of people have came to the ballpark to watch Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz, Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor etc etc.

  • 99%

    This is the kind of contrived complexity that turns the average fan off. Basically, the rules of the game would change depending on what happened at some previous point in the game. I realize that there is a possibility of that happening now, but this would make it an every-game occurrence.

    • 1%

      The average fan understands baseball well enough to follow this logic. The proposal simply allows SP’s to have a DH and relievers have to bat. Is it that complicated? The socializers who look at a baseball game as just another venue to hold a business conversation may not understand, but they don’t want the game to begin with so who cares.

      • 99%

        Yes, it is. Baseball use to be a nearly symmetric game, with every player subject to the same rules, with the explicit exception of the actual physical acts of pitching and catching of a pitched ball. In other words, everyone hit, every fielded, and outside of pitching/catching the only difference was strategic decision-making in terms of positioning players appropriately and making sure that players had talents appropriate to where they stood on the field. The dH introduced a new asymmetry, in that pitchers/dHs now followed some fundamentally different rules. I was okay with that, as the game benefitted tremendously. However, the proposal in this discussion would add yet another asymmetry, in that relief pitchers would now follow yet a different set of rules than starting pitchers. The benefits are quite marginal, and I think adding yet more asymmetry takes baseball down the road of having complexity more akin to football.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Under no scenario is the bat to be taken out of Jesus Montero’s hands.

    This will become binding.

  • dlcb

    Or you could just eliminate the pitcher/DH spot and go with an 8 man lineup. It would never happen, but it’s probably the better solution.

    • RetroRob

      I always thought that would have been a cleaner solution and I wonder if that was even considered. It’s not going to happen now since the union will not allow the DH to go away.

    • Plank

      Why is it better?

  • Plank

    I could see this leading to pitcher injuries.

  • RetroRob

    Increased interleague play will ultimately force the NL to adopt the DH since the NL seems to believe its teams are at a competitive disadvantage when facing AL teams.

  • J. Scott



    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      I don’t think we can emphasize just how worthless it is to watch pitchers hitting. And the negative impact spills over into the 8 hole too…

      Consider this scenario: men on 2nd and 3rd, two outs, 8th hitter batting in the NL…what happens? IBB to the 8th hitter, rally over.


    • Jasphil

      Agreed. I used to be more of a purist, but pitchers stink at hitting. Painful to watch AL pitchers especially in NL ballparks. I’d trade in interleague play for a balanced schedule.

  • Simon B.

    Option not on the poll: Leave it the way it is.

    I don’t understand the compulsion to try to standardize every little thing. I think it’s kind of cool to have this distinction between the leagues.

    • Holy Ghost


  • Monteroisdinero

    Ok-nobody wants to do this. Now, back to wife swapping: I think Fritz did better than Mike K.

  • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

    This might have already been said, but making the NL adopt the DH would obviously open up more jobs. Not that we give two turds about the Reds, but would they have to worry about how to get Yonder Alonso and Joey Votto in the same lineup if they could just stick one in the DH slot?

    • StanfordBen

      I don’t think this would open up more jobs. Unless you’re also going to expand rosters, there will still be just 25 jobs per team (during most of the regular season). And if you want to expand rosters, you can do that anyway to create more jobs without doing this DH thing.

      I think this idea is interesting, but it wouldn’t create more jobs, it would just make certain players more valuable (pinch hitters in the NL) and other players less valuable (DH’s in the AL).

      • Greg C

        Maybe not more jobs, but different ones. NL teams would need to add DHs, wouldn’t they? DH types are limited to playing for AL teams now. NL pinch hitters tend to be guys that don’t hit enough to play DH or any starting role. They are bench bats. Starting DHs in the AL hit well enough to start and are often one of the better hitters on the team. NL pinch hitters are borderline MLB players. Wouldn’t the NL teams look to add a DH that can actually hit? Would they really trot out a reserve middle infielder or 4th/5th OF to be an every day DH? Maybe they could carry 4 starting caliber OFs or a 3rd 1B/3B and rotate the DH spot some. They don’t need a dedicated pinch hitter and/or as many reserves. The DH or extra starting caliber bat could just replace one of the utility/PH/PR/double switch spots.

      • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

        Yea, you’re right. I should have clarified. It would create more “starting jobs”. The Jason Giambis of the world wouldn’t just have to be a platoon player.

  • Holy Ghost

    I know this probably won’t happen but it wouldn’t bother me if the AL got rid of the DH. Baseball games are slow enough as it is.

    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      I don’t think taking the DH out of baseball would quicken up the pace of games too much. Let’s say it did though. You’d be willing to trade a few extra minutes on average for a more boring product?

      • Holy Ghost

        “You’d be willing to trade a few extra minutes on average for a more boring product?”

        That’s your opinion. Lots of people disagree and think the DH rule makes AL games slower and more boring than NL games…

  • tommydee2000

    So if your pitcher gets knocked out early and you need to catch up, the relief pitchers hit? Brilliant!

  • RobC

    How about the NL SP’s start hitting a bit. As a former NL team fan I find it hard to believe SP are not good enough athletes to hit .200 with league avg or better power.

    • Greg C

      I can. Hitting pitches from MLB pitchers is hard. Plenty of great athletes can’t do it. I’m sure it doesn’t help when pitchers who can be decent hitters then focus on pitching almost exclusively- so they are out of practice. Maybe some of those guys were great hitters in High School, but then they stop seeing pitches and rarely see them from pro-level let alone MLB quality pitchers.

  • awy

    fuck the nl rules.

  • Jasphil

    I have a better idea. Two leagues with whatever divisions you want, balanced schedule, get rid of interleague play. I know everyone, even me, likes interleague play, but you can’t have that, a balanced schedule, and a DH. Don’t need to play the Mets every year. I used to love the Mayors Trophy game. The greatest evil of interleague play is an unbalanced schedule. We can move closer to parity and competitive balance if we evened out the schedule. You think the Yankees win 97 games if they didn’t get to play Baltimore 19 times?